If you’re a DIY type you’ve undoubtedly heard of the Raspberry Pi, a small but powerful single board computer that can be the basis of a variety of projects requiring computing power. Key to the Pi’s popularity is the easy interfacing to other circuits and peripherals. Take for instance, the Raspberry Pirate Radio. All you do is attach a wire antenna to one of the Pi’s output pins, run some software, and you have an FM transmitter capable of broadcasting on the 88-108 MHz band. There’s no real interface other than the power button, things like shuffle play are set up in config files that you must create beforehand. But given the price and ease of setup, it’s hardly worth quibbling over.
Note: this is capable of transmitting on frequencies reserved for government and public service so stick to the FM broadcast band and don’t interfere with existing stations.
If you’re not familiar with it, the AeroPress is simply the best way to make small amounts of coffee. It was invented by a guy who started making flying discs that could fly for a quarter mile. Tired of using a regular drip coffee maker and not liking how the pour-over models worked, he came up with something that work like a French press in reverse: you move the water through the coffee grounds (using air pressure) minimizing acidity and bitterness. I have mine at work and while I get a lot of funny looks, it’s worth it for the quality of coffee it makes. You really need to try one if you’re into coffee.
Some of my photos of the abandoned Rochester garbage plant appear on RochesterSubway.com‘s Into the Incinerator.
“Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” from Roz Chast in The New Yorker.
Trust me, this is the way it is. Makes you want to have The Conversation, doesn’t it?
Amateur radio operators have allocations over most of the radio frequency part of the electromagnetic spectrum. In some cases, we have primary status in others we are secondary users. That means we’re allowed to use a frequency as long as we don’t cause interference with the primary users. Some frequencies get used more than others, especially where experimentation is expected. The trouble is, radio frequencies are a scarce resource bound by the laws of physics. Despite advances in technology, the number of users (commercial, government and others) is rising and something has to give. So when you seen a headline like DOD launches new spectrum strategy you have to assume that more spectrum is going to be involved regardless of how smart the technology becomes.
And where is that spectrum going to come from? You can’t make more so you have to start looking at current allocations and start evaluating what’s being used by whom. When you do that, many bands where hams are involved look mighty empty and mighty tempting. I suspect it might be gradual, with hams relegated to secondary status (if we haven’t already) before being denied use of the band entirely. But it’s going happen, I guarantee it.
Hams will survive. A lot of the spectrum we have access to is distinctly unfriendly to high speed data transmission and uninteresting to the DOD and others. But some of the higher frequency bands (> 430 MHz) are probably doomed for amateur use.
When you call 911 on your cell phone, it includes location information that 911 centers can use to determine where you are even if you don’t know yourself. The problem is it isn’t always particularly accurate even outdoors and significantly less so indoors. In tests they’ve seen inaccuracy on the order of 200-750 feet, which in urban areas can easily encompass multiple buildings. Height information, which can tell responders which floor you’re on in a highrise, is only accurate 67% of the time. Yet the FCC wants carriers to report location accurate enough to pinpoint building and floor within five years.
A noble goal, but the technology isn’t there and won’t be for a long time. Location based on cell tower and WiFi hotspots isn’t sufficiently accurate and even GPS, which works well enough outdoors, is often unusable indoors. To reach the FCC’s goal, significant new technology and infrastructure must be built and all handsets updated to use it. Five years is just not enough time. But it will happen, lives depend on it.
The average car is full of computers and software yet in most cases that software is difficult or impossible to change. Sure you can take it to the dealer, but you don’t have to do that for your computer, your phone or even your GPS. Only one manufacturer, Tesla Motors, currently allows for over-the-air software updates. Everyone else is either stuck waiting for a recall or at the mercy of their local dealership’s service department.
If you own a 4G LTE-capable phone you’ve undoubtedly noticed times when data speeds seem worse than normal, especially if you live or work in a crowded urban area. That’s because the cell tower you’re connected to is at capacity due to the number of phones connected.
Telephone systems have been traditionally designed with the assumption that only a few of the users would be active at any given time. But the explosion of mobile phones, and in particular smart phones with always-on data connections, have broken that model. Bandwidth has become a precious resource that is stretched to the limit in many areas. But there’s a potential solution to this issue.
A company called Artemis Networks has introduced an alternative technology called pCell that makes your phone think it’s the only one connected to the cell tower. The linked article goes into the details but the important thing is its compatible with your existing phone. Assuming that pCell can scale to the size of the existing networks it will still require the cell operators to upgrade their systems to include it. If that occurs, you can expect urban areas to be first in line since this is where the problems are most acute.